WVU Offensive Woes Systemic, Systematic
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With double-digit leads in its last two games, West Virginia’s offense should have been free-flowing. Instead, it’s been dammed up like an ice-choked river.
While head coach Bob Huggins thought the Mountaineers passed the ball acceptably in the loss to Texas Tech, he was of just the opposite opinion concerning the Kansas game. WVU’s attack was stunted in Monday night’s 71-66 loss, with the second half being an especially frustrating exhibition. After running an excellent pin down on the its opening possession, which resulted in a Sagaba Konate score, WVU’s offense went into hibernation. The Mountaineers made just nine baskets in the remaining 19:28, which turned a 15-point lead into the five point defeat.
While several players identified “missed shots” as the culprit, that’s looking at the result, not the cause. West Virginia passed the ball as poorly as an AAU team, and gave it away frequently. Eleven second half turnovers, as opposed to ten baskets, allowed the Jayhawks to chip away and take control of the game. A paltry nine total assists, with just four coming after the break, show just how bad WVU’s court sense was.
“I feel like we take rushed shots,” senior guard Jevon Carter said afterward. “[We] haven’t been running offense as cleanly as we need to be.”
That’s the understatement of the year. Huggins launched a soliloquy in the post game in response to one question about the offense which detailed the problems magnificently. West Virginia’s players aren’t running the offense, don’t see open players, pass it to the wrong people or not at all. They make mistakes on patterned sets, and don’t make correct reads on reaction-based offenses like motion. That results in hurried late 3-point heaves or forced passes, all of which contribute to the breakdown. WVU was 1-13 from beyond the arc in the second half (7.7%), and had one unsightly stretch where it missed three trey attempts on one possession, and culminated that with four turnovers in a seven-possession span.
Even with all that evidence, though, even Carter said “We just weren’t hitting”, but did admit the Mountaineers should have realized that and changed offensive tacks. Called out by Huggins as “the easy way out” West Virginia’s launching from distance kept Kansas in the game.
Exacerbating the offensive issues is WVU’s propensity to wait for Carter to make a play at a critical juncture. That’s an unfair burden on the Mountaineers’ stellar senior, but it has also led him to take some shots that aren’t in his wheelhouse. Still, with the shot clock winding down and no one getting open, and the offense is a state of confusion, he often has little choice. He wouldn’t admit to feeling any pressure in those situations, but did allow that he “has to make plays”.
“I felt like I had enough space to get them off,” he said of two late 3-point attempts that WVU had to have to get back into the game. They felt good and looked good. They just didn’t go in.”
Whether West Virginia’s players want to admit it or not, the offensive issues go far beyond just missing shots. And until they can get all five players on the court running things correctly, or more players than Esa Ahmad and Sagaba Konate scoring in the halfcourt, they’ll be in danger of crashing further down the Big 12 standings.